The latest volume in the acclaimed Heiresses of Russ series features stories that are anything but invisible: the women in these tales are not hiding and are not easily overlooked but rather are choosing the harder path, the more dangerous route, whether that leads to love or loss or adventure. Included in these pages are stories that have won a World Fantasy Award, a Tiptree Award, and a British Fantasy Award...but every one of these stories chosen by guest editor A.M. Dellamonica (herself an award-winning writer of queer speculative fiction) is emblematic of the new vitality to be found in lesbian-themed tales of wonder, the eerie, and the miraculous.
I live in Toronto, Ontario and make my living writing science fiction and fantasy; I also review books and teach writing online at UCLA. I'm a legally married lesbian and in my spare time I take pictures with Toronto Photo. My wife's name is Kelly and we have two cats, Lorenzo and Chinchilla, born in spring of 2014.
I am not crazy about this particular collection of Heiresses of Russ, but there are two stories I did find to be of particular interest and to be really, really, really good (spectacular, actually!!) still making the buy completely unregrettable: "Love in the Time of the Markov Processes" by Megan Arkenberg and "The Tip of the Tongue" by Felicia Davin.
For both stories, I feel like using "wow" is way too inadequate. The great thing about anthologies is that there is almost always something for everyone and if you are lucky enough you will find that one beautiful story that makes the entire collection worth it all.
This sentence from "Love in the Time of the Markov Processes" reminds me of why I like speculative fiction so, so, so much: "The universes are infinite, but that does not mean that all imaginable worlds exist. There are no two-sided squares. But perhaps somewhere she loves me, or someone like her loves someone like me."
I am generally not one for anthologies. In most anthologies, half of the stories are great, a quarter are fine, and the last quarter are not to my taste at all. In this anthology, however, Dellamonica and Berman picked all winners in my eyes. I bought the book simply to read/own Tasmyn Muir's "The Deepwater Bride," which was well worth the book's price alone. I then went back and read all the other stories and loved them. A few had seemingly unfinished endings, which I find common in short stories anyway, but all of them grabbed and kept my attention. I particularly liked "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers," "The New Mother," and "Doubt the Sun," but the rest were fantastic too.
I love that this anthology exists. I found the stories were fairly hit and miss, but the hits were excellent.
The Deepwater Bride by Tamsyn Muir Obviously I loved it. This is why I bought this, to read more of her work. From the first sentence you can see the beginnings of The Locked Tomb: "In the time of our crawling Night Lord's ascendancy, foretold by exodus of starlight into his sucking astral wounds, I turned sixteen and received Barbie's Dream Car". The way Muir comes up with all this deliciously sinister language is masterful. Her voice is so strong and unique. Hester Blake's adventures as a teenage seer would make for a brilliant full novel.
The Occidental Bride by Benjanun Sriduangkaew Really pretty writing, but not too flowery where you get lost in the plot. It introduces fascinating concepts so I would love to read more of this universe, because this was just a taste of what seems like a storied and complex world. Loved this too.
And We Were Left Darkling by Sarah Pinsker I found this really unsettling. Creepy dream children appearing off the shore of California. The idea of this group of parents experiencing some sort of mass hysteria...could be a TV show really. It was far too short though, it just suddenly ends right before the plot develops! This was the case for a few of the stories. They end right when things really kick off.
The New Mother by Eugene Fischer I found this one absolutely terrifying. It has very realistic writing, with just enough detail to convince you this is a very similar parallel universe or something. It's well thought out and raises difficult questions about society in a world where women can reproduce asexually.
Doubt the Sun by Faith Mudge One of the best in the collection. A touching and sad story about a girl and her robot girlfriend, in a near-future that seems entirely plausible. I loved the switching viewpoints and sort of split timeline. It's long enough to feel like a complete story with sufficient worldbuilding, with the right amount of emotional highlights.
There's many stories included in the anthology, but a lot of them ended too soon for me. Not saying they should be a whole novel/novella, just that another few pages would have really rounded them out. I've read plenty of good shorts that don't end on a total cliffhanger. 3.5 stars overall.